Priests For Life v. HHS, No. 13-5368 (D.C. Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
At issue in these consolidated cases is whether a regulatory accommodation for religious nonprofit organizations that permit them to opt out of the contraceptive coverage requirement under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 42 U.S.C. 300gg-13(a)(4), itself imposes an unjustified substantial burden on plaintiffs' religious exercise in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. 2000bb. The court concluded that the challenged regulations do not impose a substantial burden on plaintiffs' religious exercise under RFRA. All plaintiffs must do to opt out is express what they believe and seek what they want via a letter or two-page form. Religious nonprofits that opt out are excused from playing any role in the provision of contraceptive services, and they remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms. The ACA shifts to health insurers and administrators the obligation to pay for and provide contraceptive coverage for insured persons who would otherwise lose it as a result of the religious accommodation. Because the regulatory opt-out mechanism is the least restrictive means to serve compelling governmental interests, it is fully consistent with plaintiffs' rights under RFRA. The court also found no merit in plaintiffs' additional claims. The court rejected all of plaintiffs' challenges to the regulations and affirmed the district court's opinion in Priests for Life in its entirety. As for the RCAW decision, the court vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for Thomas Aquinas and its holding as to the unconstitutionality of the non-interference provision and affirmed the remainder of the decision.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on May 20, 2015.